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MARCH 5, 2015 | CreativePro
Interview by Ilene Strizver
(kHyal + Karl’s collaborative answers were written and edited by Free Range Copy.)
Karl Heine, principal and solutionist of creativeplacement with offices in CT and NY, knows what it takes for creatives to nab that perfect job. After all, he has been placing creative talent for over 25 years, with many extremely satisfied clients and employers. Karl often lectures designers and students on how to best present themselves and their work to prospective employers or clients to get noticed amidst a sea of potential candidates, and hopefully get that job. One important element that most employers are looking at is a candidate’s typography skills. kHyal is a creative director, strategist and writer who partners with Karl in life and work—including museum, conference and design school workshops, lectures on business practices and marketing for creative professionals, as well as portfolio and resume reviews. We spoke with both Karl and kHyal about this very important topic.
Q. How important is good typography for creatives when looking for a job?
A. Graphic Design has become an increasingly overcrowded industry. And, in the US, still does not require certification of any kind. While untrained, or under-trained, designers are able to find full- and part-time jobs, and freelance projects, the top tier opportunities still require a high level of talent, skill and knowledge in all aspects of design, and very heavily in typography. Design professionals hiring within agencies and in-house corporate design departments meticulously review all materials from prospective candidates, starting with typography. Many design firm owners and creative directors pride themselves on being typographically savvy, and if they see the incorrect use of type, spacing and style, it can determine whether if they will go to the next step of viewing a portfolio or website.
Q. How important is the type and design of one’s resume? Any tips?
A. Type and design excellence on a resume are critical. They are key to having a hiring manager look at your portfolio and consider an in-person interview. Creative directors often won’t consider a candidate if they see typographic or design errors on a resume. And, most won’t take the time to tell you. Using an easy-to-read, professional typeface with a clean layout is fundamental—as is keeping all relevant information within the top third of the page, knowing that most resume views are in the 10 to 15 second range.
People take resume advice from many sources. In the case of graphic design, it’s important to understand what design professionals look for, which is very specific to the industry. This means a general expert on resume writing may suggest the exact opposite of what’s needed for a design career job, which can result in resumes that are poorly executed using incorrect terminology, inappropriate formatting, template-like design and a system typeface exported to a PDF from a Word document. This is the kiss of death for designers.
Naming your resume is of the same importance as naming your client files. For instance, you would never name a project file “Branding Manual” without specifying the client name and other organizational information. Naming your resume “resume” usually results in that file ending up in the trashcan, or being overwritten with someone else’s file that has made a similar file-naming mistake. Remember, that there are often dozens, or even hundreds of applicants for most publicized opportunities. Your resume and how the file is named need to be professional and distinguishable.
An example of best practices for resume file naming would be: LastName_FirstName_Resume_Year. Using underscores provides clarity and the least possibility for file corruption. When it comes to email addresses, it’s best to have your first and last name connected to either your website, or a user-friendly/most accepted portal like Gmail. Many companies organize their prospects by name and by email. If you make up an unrelated pseudonym like email@example.com, no one will remember it or find you. It is much better to identify yourself clearly with an email that makes sense, like: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We advise against using initials with birthdates or any other extraneous information in your email address.
Q. What about typography in a portfolio—does a potential employer really have time to notice these details?
A. All portfolios and related marketing materials should be consistent and use excellent typography. Portfolio pieces should be annotated with short descriptions, using type that isn’t too large or distracting so that it detracts from the actual work. Minimal, understated design is always the best answer when it comes to portfolios, so the actual work remains the focal point.
Most potential employers want to see examples of design work. At first they will spend a short time to review the level of talent and appropriateness of work for the position. If the typography and other elements take their focus away, a designer might lose out entirely. This includes things like not putting all of your contact information on every page with a logo.
Q. What about business cards, emails, and follow up letters—are they necessary?
A. Business cards are your in-person greeting and introduction. You only have one first impression, and as a designer you have the opportunity to showcase your work in a compact form. If you make it special, it also provides a chance to talk about process. This is a major opportunity to strike up a conversation with a potential employer or client, and it allows the receiving party a look into how you present and think.
This should not be a time for making excuses for a card you created but don’t believe in. We have actually heard things like: “Here’s my card, I printed it out at home with what I had for copy paper and my scissors were a little off, sorry.” It’s better not to hand someone a card, than to give him or her something that doesn’t prove that you have professional skills. With specialty printing getting better and less expensive every day, including digital printing and quick turn around times—it’s well worth the investment.
Left: A clever concept (the corner appears burned off) that plays off of the unusual company name makes for an unforgettable business card.
Right: The most important information stands out amidst the highly decorative background pattern.
Left: This letterpress business card uses type to create a textural pattern of information.
Right: The beautiful curves of an oversized g is the focal point of this card, enhanced by the dimension of letterpress printing.
Left: An inventive and memorable business card treatment that harks back to pre-digital age designers’ tools.
Right: A whimsical typographic logo catches the eye, as it sits atop a simple text treatment.
After the meet and greet, it’s imperative to send a thank you email right away. That means the same day, not two or three days later. This level of follow up is expected. Additionally, it’s even better to also send a “Thank You” card or letter in the mail. A very small percentage of people do this, so it truly makes you stand out. The card should be handmade, not a store-bought version, which provides yet another opportunity to show off your work. Take the time to be inventive.
Q. Do good typography skills give potential candidates an edge or advantage?
A. Great typography goes a long way, and provides a huge advantage over other candidates vying for design jobs. We have seen many skilled designers take this one step further and create their own typeface, then apply it to a personal project or license it for sale.
Q. What have you heard from potential employees in this regard?
A. We have seen many occurrences where designers working under a well-known typographer during an internship have radically improved their understanding of typography and design, and changed the course of their future careers.
Q. What should you do if you think your typography skills aren’t up to the same level as your design?
A. This is a common problem that can typically be remedied with additional typography training and outside classes geared toward raising the level of typographic awareness and skill. It’s mostly an issue of time and how it applies to growth, and to a lesser degree natural talent and aptitude. Learning and development in this area takes practice, trial and error, and the ability to break old habits. We believe that learning is a life-long process and that designers at all levels should strive to learn and improve their skills constantly. There are countless ways to do that through traditional classes, workshops, talks, books, and online courses.
Q. Any final words or suggestions?
A. In a time where there are more graduates in graphic design than there are jobs, it’s important to learn as much as you can, and constantly improve on those skills with practice and additional learning. Since your resume is often the first introduction to a potential employer and is primarily type-based, understanding best practices is key.
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Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community. She conducts her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for her free e‑newsletter, All Things Typographic, at www.thetypestudio.com.
JANUARY 2010 | Felt & Wire Blog
fiZz teamed up with DesignerJournals™ to get Karl Heine’s new business some ink on Mohawk Fine Paper’s website Felt & Wire. fiZz helps businesses get noticed with PR that pops — and can write your story for publication.
See the full DesignerJournals™ story on Felt & Wire here.
Sketchbook: Karl Heine’s journals build histories & futures
[Karl Heine & kHyal] It was my grandmother who inspired me to create Designer Journals™. She was a consummate adventurer and documented all her experiences. I found this out simply by being a passenger on her travels — not a passenger by any specific means, but as a guest on her adventures in the filtering light of my youth.
When I was young, my grandmother invited me on journeys to what I consider some of the most interesting and exciting places in the world — all of them in Manhattan. We went to places like the Empire State Building, the circus, the Museum of Natural History, a television game show and the premiere of the film The Yellow Submarine.
When we returned to her home after each adventure, she would take out her journal and write about the day’s events. One evening, I noticed a box filled with envelopes and a collection of letters, journals and small photo albums. My curiosity was piqued! We spent the next several hours discussing family history. She gave me a few envelopes from the 1920s plus a nickel letter opener with my late grandfather’s initials, shaped like the key of Bremen with a hand-cut heart. My fascination led me to be the collector and keeper of our family’s history, and to document all of my own new adventures.
Later in life, when working toward a design degree at the University of Bridgeport, we were asked to keep a journal to develop our ideas. I kept my journal with me and, whenever the mood would strike, I’d write and draw. I filled many books. Then, after a considerable hiatus, I returned to journaling to sketch out my new office environment and concept a line of art lighting I launched in 2000.
Over the course of extensive travels as a guest lecturer at some of the country’s top art and design schools, I noticed that many students were obsessively writing and drawing in all kinds of notebooks — not to take lecture notes, but out of the necessity and passion of keeping a record of ideas, sketches and doodles.
In early 2008, after researching and experimenting with the best eco-friendly materials I could find, I began distributing complimentary Designer Journal prototypes to students, faculty and design professionals to test my concept. They were a smash hit at all levels. So I decided to produce bigger batches of these journals and make them available to the world at large.